Also This: My Awkward Encounter With a Hollywood Producer
By: Olivia Hill
As an aspiring comedian, I do odd jobs that make me think, “What was the point of graduating summa cum laude just to work as a hostess?” Another one of my many occupations consists of walking dogs via a very popular App. Think of it as the Uber or Lyft of pets: I get assigned random dogs in my area and give them a 30-minute walk. In most cases, owners hide house keys under their mat or in a designated lockbox, and I enter the home assuming there are security cameras watching me. Every now and then, owners will be home and unless I see a physical disability, I always wonder why they don’t save money and just walk their own dog. Then I think twice about spouting that novel idea, as that could mean I’d be out of a job.
On this particular morning, I was assigned to go to a nice apartment complex on the Westside of Los Angeles—think high end living right next to the beach. The security guard swipes me and my dirty dog walking shirt up the elevator. I hit the 20th floor and step out to follow signs to the designated apartment. I arrive and re-read the access notes. “Someone will be home.”
So, like any human being who’s lived on this Earth for more than 5 years, I knock on the door. I can hear the dog immediately go off like an alarm. He’s barking with both excitement and worry at who could be on the other side of this man-made construct. The barking continues but no one opens the door. Miscommunication as to apartment number or time of scheduled walk has happened before, so I stand there re-reading all of the notes. I triple check that I’m at the right apartment and that there’s not a hidden key I’m supposed to snoop out. I give the owner a call, and after several rings an automated voice requests I leave a message.
I knock again, and finally the door opens. An older man, most likely in his 60’s, quickly opens the door, and my I bend down to the floor where a white fluff is eagerly shaking to greet me. Paying more attention to my four-legged clients than shaking hands with my two-legged ones has become a bad habit of mine. But in this moment, I realize my subconscious threw my gaze to the floor because it also registered that this man had just stepped out of the shower, and was haphazardly holding a towel around his waist while he hid behind the door. The verbal interaction between us happens so quickly that it doesn’t even make colloquial sense.
“Sorry! I tried to call—“
“Alright, here’s the leash.”
“Okay, great, um…ahh…”
I’m already walking off and the door is already being closed as my brain tries to recall how to use words. I gather my thoughts and wait for the elevator to take me down.
I don’t feel violated, I don’t feel harassed, I understand human nature, which means sometimes you schedule your dog walk with out considering that today’s deep conditioner day. I take the dog for the walk and put the pieces together myself: he was just running late and didn’t have time to get fully dressed as I knocked impatiently on the door.
Then I started to think about how ironic this was. This was just as all the tales of big Hollywood names in bathrobes and Harvey Weinstein horror stories were coming to light, so for “shits and gigs” I tried to find this man on the ever-trusted entertainment industry website, iMDB.
Sure enough, the first hit is his face and name next to the word Producer. I’m amused. I think about how this older white male probably should take a cue from his peers and not open the door so scantily clad even if he was just “running late,” but I put the thought out of my mind as the dog begins to audibly abuse a skateboard flying by.
After the half hour of walking and noting via iPhone App where the dog has marked his territory, the dog leads me home. Once we step out of the magic box—I always wonder if dogs understand the concept that elevators go up and down—I knock on the apartment door.
The door opens with the same hurriedness of the previous encounter, and the guy is still in just a bath towel! I hand the leash back, and we exchange “thank you,” and “have a nice day,” at the same time.
Once again, I don’t feel harassed, I don’t feel like someone used their power to take advantage of me, I just feel humorous disbelief that someone with that career, in these times, could be so aloof to the climate. Could he really believe this was an interaction deemed normal by society? Then I play my own devil’s advocate. He’s in his own home, isn’t he? To which I retort, but he knew that no one else but this small young woman who originally left with his dog would be the one returning with it.
I think back to my college days. One summer, I was living in a nice apartment with five other girls, and in the scorching southern California heat, we’d spend most of our days in large tank tops that basically wore like loose dresses on us. Our sink broke one day, and I happened to be the only one available to let the complex’s repairman in. He was a familiar and friendly face to all residents, and I was a naïve 20-year-old, so I let him into the apartment in the same outfit all of us dawned. The story doesn’t get any racier from here, but I remember thinking after the first few minutes of him working under the sink, “Oh shit, maybe I should have put on some pants…” I wasn’t afraid he’d attack me but I realized this might be weird for him. I assumed changing at this point would awkwardly call attention to the fact that I had already messed up. So I went about my day in the apartment working on my laptop and watching TV for the next few hours before saying goodbye when he left.
I tell that story because it was a moment of maturity in my twenties. It was a moment of understanding that I didn’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable not due to the pressure “PC culture,” but because I’m a human being that thinks about other human beings and their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I’m also a human that can understand that people make decisions about what they wear—or don’t wear—with out really thinking of the collective. This piece isn’t to negate any part of the #MeToo movement. But it is to reiterate the words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin’.” So for the love of your career continuing to exist, and to avoid being kicked off a dog-walking app: at least put some basketball shorts on. I truly hope he figures it out by sixty, or he might just get a knock on his door one day from a dog-walker and writer with a less humorous take on life.